Student fees are only way to fund Coffman

We would like to thank The Minnesota Daily Editorial Board for its support of the Coffman renovation project “Coffman Renovation Worthy of Student Fees,” Feb. 8, 1999. The editorial referred to an issue not adequately explained by Coffman’s Board of Governors: private funding.
The Coffman Board of Governors has explored several other sources of funding. These sources include legislative funds, administrative (“University”) funds, corporate funding and private donations. We found that each of these sources would not be able to fully support the Coffman renovation, or would seriously compromise Coffman’s mission and exploit students.
Legislative and administrative funding is allocated to “academic” buildings only. Coffman Union is considered to be an “ancillary,” or “self-support” building, and is expected to fund its own operations through student fee dollars and any revenue generated through various leases and services. The University is exploring other funding options (not student fees) to pay for the infrastructure costs (i.e., front plaza, back terrace, road construction, etc.) in an effort to minimize the amount of student fee dollars for the Coffman project. Infrastructure costs are estimated at $15 to $30 million.
The Coffman Board of Governors also asked the University Foundation to conduct a fund-raising feasibility study. The study looked at the possibility of raising $14 million dollars through donations for the Coffman renovation. Through numerous interviews of Coffman alumni, University administrators and members of the private sector, combined with an examination of historical materials, the University Foundation found that “it would be highly unlikely and extremely difficult for the University of Minnesota to raise the amount for Coffman Union.”
The study cited key observations for this conclusion: Those interviewed have identified very few potential leadership donors of gifts of $100,000 or more. No potential individual or corporate leadership fund-raising volunteers who might make a major gift and lead the campaign effort have emerged to date. Coffman Union has not had an ongoing private giving program in place for its entire history (50-plus years). The initial steps for building such a program were started last year by the Board of Governors, but it will take years to establish a giving program that can support a major renovation.
Interviewees could not clarify that the University leadership would place Coffman Union’s renovation on a high priority list as an institutional fund-raising goal. In general, the study found that academic programs rank much higher than student union facilities as fund raising priorities.
Basically, the Board of Governors concluded that the only way students can keep Coffman Union a student union is by supporting it through student dollars. While it would be desirable to offset as much as possible the level to which students support the renovation, we have remembered the wise words of our parents: If we want it, we’ll have to pay for it. Overwhelmingly we have found that students do want to see Coffman Union renovated.
The time has finally come for us, the students, to unify in our show of support for the one building on campus that students can call their own.
Jorg Rivera, Senior, College of Liberal Arts,Coffman Board of Governors President Cale L. Schultz,Senior, Carlson School of Management,Coffman Board of Governors vice-president